Cover photo for Marvin Kleinau's Obituary
Marvin Kleinau Profile Photo
1929 Marvin 2021

Marvin Kleinau

August 31, 1929 — November 23, 2021

CARBONDALE - Marvin Kleinau passed away November 23, 2021 at Carbondale, Illinois. He was born August

31, 1929, in Geneseo, Henry County, Illinois, to Walter and Sadie (Pobanz) Kleinau. His father

was killed in 1930 in an auto accident. His mother raised him and his brother, Elon, sending

both to college while working at the Rock Island Arsenal during the war. She was the rock that

defined his future.

Marvin often described his memories of Geneseo as idyllic. Growing up in Geneseo he was a

natural leader and put together his own softball team that traveled the area. In high school he

was involved in all activities, including football, track, golf, debate and individual speech

contests. He was a state finals qualifier finishing second in debate and fourth in

extemporaneous speaking. He was one of four students selected in their junior year to the

National Honor Society and the only boy. He was president of his class and president of the

NHS. It was during these years that he met Sparkie Armstrong and Jim Glawe, whose

friendship was the key to every aspect of his development. Teachers Holley and McCormick

gifted him with time, attention, and a desire to become a teacher.

He attended Illinois State University in Bloomington, Illinois and was active in debate, extemp,

and theater. He and his colleague were the first ISU team to qualify for the national

championship at West Point, NY, in 1948. There he was “fathered” by Ralph Micken, his

mentor and friend.

After graduation from Illinois State University he served two years in the United States Army,

assigned to the Intelligence school at Fort Riley, Kansas.

Marvin shared his talents while teaching in Saybrook, Illinois and in his old high school in

Geneseo, was by his admission the most enjoyable time of his life. In addition to teaching five

different classes per day he coached football, basketball, baseball, track, and directed three

plays and a musical each year. In Geneseo he taught speech and history, winning the sectional

tournament for the first time in the history of the school. He had state finalists in several

events and one state champion. His speech and debate team won the North Central

Conference each of the years he was there. In fact some of his best readers were football

players. He still communicates with the linebacker that did “Of Mice and Men.”

In 1961 he accepted a scholarship to begin his Ph D. studies at Southern Illinois University. In

addition he taught for two years at the University High School organizing a speech competition

program combined with an existing debate program. Kleinau had his biggest challenge when

he was directed to coach students in the University high school at SIU as he began work on his

doctorate. He had a state champion his first year, but it was his second year that his ability to

mentor students that had never been to a speech contest before took hold. Marvin challenged

the talented students to give it a try and after a lot of hard work, the school advanced a

student in every event to the state finals and ended up losing the top award by a single point.

It was on March 18, 1962 that he married Marion Lorene Davis, a member of the faculty of

the Southern Illinois University Speech Department, in Independence, Missouri. For nearly

sixty years, through thick and thin, the marriage blossomed. Marion began at this time to build

an outstanding program in performance studies. The current Marion Kleinau Theater is named

in her honor. No children were born of the marriage, unless you consider all those earning

their doctorates and returning from time to time like family.

In 1963 he was hired as a faculty member in the SIU Department of Speech and made SIU

Director of Forensics. A position he held for seven years. They won numerous tournaments

and advanced to the national tournament in 1970. He was elected president of Illinois Speech

and Theater association in 1969 and over the years received three awards from the

association for outstanding teaching and service.

Marvin returned to the class room teaching rhetoric, public address, composition and basic

speech. He also became active in the political aspect of the university. He was the first faculty

member to be elected president of the Faculty Senate three times. He was awarded the

Mobile Outstanding Teaching Award as the result of student evaluations. He was appointed by

the Chancellor to chair the Program Evaluation committee and was also appointed by the

Chancellor to chair the North Central Accreditation Team. He was awarded the Board of

Trustees Distinguished Service honor in 1993. He chaired the Speech department for ten years

and was named the interim dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts in 1989. It

was during this period that a lasting friendship was established with Tom and Tommye Pace,

Pat and Dick Hunsaker, and Keith and Carol Sanders. Tom was a blessing to Marvin, beyond


In 1977, he was ordained an Elder in the Community of Christ church. In addition to pastoring

the Marion congregation, he was elected to serve as President of the Southeast district, after

serving in the district presidency for ten years. He was ordained a High Priest in 1984, and in

1991 he was ordained an Evangelist.

Marvin was the recipient of the Amoco award, as the top SIU undergraduate teacher in 1977.

He has written debate books with Dick Hunsaker and nine debate manuals while he directed

debate workshops that turned out five future national champions. He served many years in

ISTA leadership positions and loved every second.

He was a lifelong fan of the Chicago Cubs.

When nominated for the 2015 Link Mentorship Award, it was said that Marvin Kleinau never

talked to a student, either in his high school teaching years or as a university professor,

without personally measuring them up as potential debaters or some kind of speech

performer. This constant attention to potential speech students was the result of the way he

was treated while in high school. Speech was very big, and speech students were at the top of

the students most likely to succeed list, and they proved themselves when they out-pointed

big time speech schools like Rock Island and East Moline; finally, Kleinau went back home to

coach at Peoria and Galesburg. He always said, “The talent is there, you just have to

encourage it to come out of the woodwork.”

In the last year of his life, Marvin and Marion endowed scholarships and other educational

opportunities to continue being encouragers with the same generous spirit with which they gave

to their students and dedicated themselves to their fields of study throughout their respective

careers. Marion created the Marion Lorene Kleinau Award at Southern Illinois University-

Carbondale. Marvin endowed scholarships at Illinois State University– The Marvin D. Kleinau

Scholarship for Forensics Fund– and at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale–The Marvin

Kleinau Speech Fund. They also established the Kleinau Outstanding Teacher Award with the

Illinois Communications Association.

As a member of the Carbondale Kiwanis Club, Marvin supported the Club’s civic and

benevolent fundraising projects and proudly contributed to ensure support for recent renovations

at the playground in the Carbondale Park District. He participated in many other civic activities

and events, becoming known for his leadership, graciousness, and humor in the “town-gown”

connections in Carbondale as a university town. In his philanthropic spirit, Marvin continued to

use his God-given gifts to help others throughout his last illness.

Marvin Kleinau's life was one of humble but proud and generous service to others and to a

standard of excellence beneficial to the educational process and to societal discourse. Not

only did he teach persuasive speaking, but he excelled in pushing his students in rhetoric,

critical thinking, and analysis. He commanded respect of those whose lives he touched in his

long journey. On November 23, 2021, his booming baritone voice advanced to a new height,

waiting for his beloved Marion, who remains to honor his legacy, which is an endowment of

compassion and pride, service and integrity, humility and respect, to all whom he taught and

mentored and whose lives he touched throughout his rich tenure in life.

His closing statement is the purest summary of Marvin's heart and soul: "I never knew it was

going to be like this when I first encountered Santa Claus way back in the 1930's. If I had

known all the gifts and good times I would encounter I would have tried to get here earlier.

Finally, the Chicago Cubs have sustained me all these years. I am thankful for their resurgence;

I TRUST IN MY HONOR.... "M," I love you. See you in the morning."

Services are deferred at this time. For more information contact Rebecca Whittington,

618/549-8599 or Meredith Funeral Home.

To order memorial trees in memory of Marvin Kleinau, please visit our tree store.


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